Ready to hit the road or take to the skies to explore the best places to visit around the globe? Come with us on a ’round the world journey to discover vibrant cities, natural wonders, pristine beaches, historic buildings, and more. ViaTravelers staff writers and editors have come up with our top picks for 2023 travel destinations, and we’re excited for our readers to get out and see new places this year.
This curated list is a blend of our all-time favorite destinations and spots that top our bucket lists. Have you seen the northern lights in Helsinki, or the puffins in Iceland? Would you stand nearby and watch brown bears go fishing just a few yards away?
Are you the type to get lost in a new city for days and come out with memories and stories you can’t stop telling? If so, you’ll want to add these spots to your bucket list.
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Top 10 Places to Visit in 2023
1. Katmai National Park, Alaska
Kim Magaraci, Managing Editor (@kmagaraci)
Lots of travelers want to spend their vacations lounging on soft sand or exploring every nook and cranny of a lively city. Not me – please, send me to the mountains! I also love National Parks, so my choice is kind of an obvious one.
Katmai National Park is high on my list thanks to the abundance of brown bears during peak salmon season. July and September are the best times to visit, with July being a bit more stable weather-wise and showcasing summertime natural beauty, and September offering the return of the salmon and the gorgeous backdrop of Alaskan autumn. One of the hidden gems of the National Park Service, Katmai is located in a remote Alaskan preserve, and you’ll have to fly in or boat in for access.
Over 2,000 brown bears live within Katmai, and you’re sure to encounter plenty of them on your trip through the National Park. These bears are a bit more mild-mannered than the grizzlies that live inland and tend to react less to humans. Still, you’ll want to travel in groups of 3 or more, make noise while you hike to avoid startling a bear, and carry bear spray in the event that you are charged.
The best way to experience Katmai National Park is to book a guided tour for wildlife spotting or photography. There are plenty of permitted outfitters in the park that can take you on a tour – just remember, you’re either going to have to hop on a tiny plane or take a boat. On your tour, the guides will tell you all about the bears, how they interact with the environment, and the park’s conservation efforts.
For an immersive bucket-list-worthy experience, spend a few nights at Brooks Lodge. This no-frills wilderness lodge is world-famous for providing guests with a rustic spot to stay just steps away from Brooks Falls and dozens of hunting brown bears.
By the way – Katmai National Park hosts the annual Fat Bear Week competition, so if you can’t quite swing an Alaska trip this year, be sure to follow the park on social media and vote for your favorite chubby cub in the fall.
See Related: Best Places to Visit in Alaska & Things to Do
2. Guernsey and Jersey
James Oliver, Editor
Everyone’s heard about New Jersey, but where’s “old” Jersey?
Once the cliched summer vacation destination for post-war, lower-middle-class British families, the Channel Islands (specifically Guernsey and Jersey) are genuinely worth your time if you’re looking for a unique European vacation without having to break the bank or the English language barrier. It’s almost like going to Gibraltar or Malta without the hefty price tag or sunburn!
The Channel Islands (consisting of Alderney, Guernsey, Jersey, Herm, Sark, and a few smaller chunks of rock in the English Channel) are “Crown Dependencies” that exists in a strange limbo of not being part of the UK, but for all intents and purposes are well and truly British, with a continental twist. The two largest islands, the Bailiwick of Jersey and the Bailiwick of Guernsey, are truly idyllic places to visit, both in possession of beautiful coastlines, gorgeous countryside, hopping towns, fascinating history, warm climate, and incredible cuisine – particularly the dairy!
You may have heard of Jersey and Guernsey cows before, and surprise, surprise, they come from this tiny corner of the world. Trust me when I say that this is the home of the world’s best dairy products. The butter here is so fresh and pure it’s practically fluorescent and the soft-serve ice cream is better than almost any other dessert I can think of – and I eat a lot of desserts.
Perhaps most interesting of all, is that these islands were the only scraps of British territory that the Germans successfully invaded and occupied during World War II. Consequently, the islands are covered in relics and ruins from the war, all of which can be toured and many have been restored.
Enjoying balmy summers (and climates warm enough to support palm trees) each island has its own unique feel. Jersey is more metropolitan and touristy, featuring a larger array of accommodations and attractions. Guernsey on the other hand is a little quieter, with more of an island retreat sort of appeal to it.
Regardless of which you choose, you’ll find reaching them from either the mainland UK or France is pretty easy and cheap, via air or ferry. You can expect the costs of accommodation and food to be pretty reasonable too. On top of that, everyone speaks English, and (if you’re visiting from the UK) you don’t need to change your pounds to euros.
3. Da Nang, Vietnam
Anthony Giarratano, Editor
As someone who lived in Southeast Asia for nearly five years, I am happy to report that Da Nang is one of my favorite cities: the weather is warm year-round; the beaches are clean and accessible; centrally-located hotels and condos are aplenty; there are countless motorbiking opportunities; and the overall cost of living is very budget-friendly.
Vietnam is affordable in general, but in Da Nang, you get a lot of bang for your buck. I lived there for years, and my total monthly expenses rarely exceeded $1,000 USD. I rented a fully-furnished one-bedroom condo with a twice-weekly cleaning service for $350 per month.
Short-term rentals are equally affordable, and many are just a five-minute walk to the beach. There are also so many delicious meals you can find – street food, restaurants, or delivery – for just a couple of bucks a plate.
In 2023, global inflation is a big story, and it’s one thing that’s stopping a lot of would-be travelers in their tracks. If you’re thinking about postponing your great American road trip or holding off on visiting Paris, don’t feel like you need to stay home completely. Affordable cities in Southeast Asia can keep your travel dreams alive.
Da Nang is a medium-sized city of only one million people, and it’s served by a very convenient international airport. When I first got to Da Nang, I stayed at the Starlet Hotel in the My An area.
My Khe Beach is right across the street, and I enjoyed grabbing a banh mi, heading over to it, and wandering along while snapping photos of Lady Buddha and the Son Tra Peninsula in the distance. Though this is the touristy area of Da Nang, it’s still a great location for a short trip or the start of a longer adventure.
But if you really want to experience Da Nang, I highly recommend renting a motorbike and exploring. Rental rates are cheap — mine cost just $70/month, but you’ll find plenty of daily or weekly options, and it will give you the best perspective of the city. I learned to ride here, and it’s totally doable. My advice: opt for the fully-automatic Honda Click; take it slow; wear a helmet; and stay to the right.
Huy Van Pass is an easy ride that I highly recommend. There are different ways to get there, but I recommend starting from the beachside of Da Nang and riding over the northernmost bridge, Thuan Phuoc Bridge, then following Nguyen Tat Thanh along Da Nang Bay. The view of Da Nang and the bay on the way up and from the top of Huy Van Pass is simply amazing.
Another easy ride is the road to Hoi An’s Ancient Town. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the perfect place to park and wander on foot. I recommend slow strolling through the ancient streets and along the Thu Bon River, then crossing over the Hoi An Bridge. There are endless opportunities for awesome photos.
Once you’ve built up a little experience and confidence on the motorbike, ride over to the Son Tra Peninsula. To continue on past Lady Buddha, you should be comfortable handling your motorbike, as some of the mountain roads can be iffy. The Son Tra Mountain, or Monkey Mountain, is home to wild monkeys, and when I lived in Da Nang we fed the monkeys graham crackers right out of our hands.
Finally, just exploring the city itself is an exciting and freeing experience, and most of its roads are well-paved. The Han River splits Da Nang into beachside and cityside, with five different bridges between the two. For an enjoyable ride, zigzag across these bridges, making it a special point to cross over the famous Dragon Bridge, which sprays fire and water on the weekends. Needless to say, I am in the midst of planning my 2023 return to Da Nang.
See Related: Best Sabbatical Destinations
4. Milos, Greece
Brittney Liu, Contributing Writer (@brittkehaulani)
Anyone dreaming of the Greek Islands for their summer getaway should put Milos on their must-see list. This island is in the Cyclades chain, just like Santorini and Mykonos, but attracts a fraction of the crowds. We’d also argue that the villages are more beautiful, the beaches more serene, and the adventures more exciting.
Only a small portion of the island has the luxury of paved roads, meaning you’ll need to rent an ATV to get to many of its furthest corners. And much of its coastline is accessible only by boat, resulting in beach coves like no other place in the Aegean.
The best places to stay in Milos are the port town of Adamas, the clifftop capital of Plaka, or the fishing village of Pollonia. The number one do-not-miss thing to do on this island is a boat trip to Kleftiko – a shoreline with surreal rock formations and crystal-clear water on the remote southern coast. You can find plenty of tour boats headed there, or rent your own if you are comfortable.
Don’t miss the famous Moon Beach, or Sarakiniko, known for its lunar-like landscape that’s amazing for photography. Caribbean-like Fyriplaka Beach is perfect for lounging and day drinking at a beach club. Take your ATV to the tiny traditional villages of Fyropotamos and Mandrakia, and eat at Medusa restaurant in the latter.
These tips only scratch the surface of the adventures you can have in Milos, and we’ll be going back this summer to discover even more. Ferries run daily from Athens, Santorini, and Mykonos in the summer, as do flights from Athens.
5. Porto, Portugal
Woodrow Matthews, Contributing Writer
Visitors looking for a European adventure that’s off-the-beaten-path should consider the city of Porto in northern Portugal for 2023 – because I predict it won’t remain off-the-beaten-path for very long. While Porto does get its fair share of tourists from other European countries, most still prioritize the capital, Lisbon, and the Algarve riviera in the south for their Portuguese getaway.
Porto sits on the steep banks of the Douro River’s outlet into the Atlantic Ocean. It’s one of the best places to visit for wine-drinkers, who may recognize it as the home of the world-famous Port Wine. Port is a variety that’s very sweet due to grape growing conditions in the Douro Valley and methods that mix brandy into the final product, preserving the natural sugar content. You can learn all about it on the southern bank of the river, where the wineries offer tours of the very cellars that the wine is made in.
On the other side of the city’s six bridges, narrow streets lined with traditional tiled-side houses traverse the steep hills of the city, making for beautiful photographs. At the top of the hill, the Porto Cathedral offers a glimpse back through centuries of the city’s history, as well as some of the best views of the town. At the river’s edge, you can walk the lively promenade known as Ribeira, where you’ll find shopping, dining, as well as boat cruises along the Douro.
Porto is now home to new direct flights to the US and Brazil, as well as a fast-growing number of European destinations served by low-cost airlines. The price of a vacation here is fair- for now- so put Porto on your list for the new year.
See Related: Countries With Digital Nomad Visas
Amanda Finn, Contributing Writer (@finn.writes)
In the musical Hamilton, Nevis is reduced to one phrase: “a forgotten spot in the Caribbean.” I’ll give Lin-Manuel that Nevis is a hard rhyme, but once you visit this luscious island, you will certainly never forget it. Inhabited by more vervet monkeys than people, this cozy place will leave an impression on your soul.
The largest resort on the island is the stunning Four Seasons with walkable beaches that walk you right up to the gemstone-blue waters. Other hotels dot the 36 square mile island in view of Nevis Peak, the sea, or nestled among shade trees. Charlestown, the largest town on the island, is a slice of history in itself as well as some of the nicest folks you’ll meet.
For those Hamilfans out there, you can see many places Alexander Hamilton himself once saw as well as a museum where his childhood home once stood. Seeing the entire island is easy with the fun folks at Funky Monkey or taking up a history tour with Nevis Sun Tours.
When you’re ready to wind down for the day there is no shortage of bars for a sunset cocktail whether you go to 5Trees Bar & Lounge in Charlestown or hit up a local rum tasting. 5Trees is owned by our now friend Kurvron–you can make friends anywhere in the world if you just strike up a conversation!
7. Helsinki, Finland
Jacks, Contributing Writer (@thearcticspiral)
Known for its innovative art and impressive architecture, the environmentally friendly city of Helsinki should be on everyone’s bucket list for 2023. Often overlooked on the Scandinavian scene, Helsinki truly offers something for everyone. Coffee lovers will be delighted to find out that Finland has the highest coffee consumption per capita in the entire world, and there is no shortage of cafes peppered around the city.
The only thing more popular than coffee in Helsinki is the sauna scene. Saunas are a cornerstone of Finnish culture, and there are plenty of saunas in Helsinki to choose from, including one that’s a sauna gondola! The Skysauna is the first Ferris wheel sauna in the world, and it’s a magical experience with some of the best views of the city!
Like many European cities, Helsinki is easily walkable, but should you run into bad weather or maybe you’ve just hit your step count for the day, the city’s public transportation is very easy to navigate, especially for English speakers.
No trip to Helsinki is complete without taking a boat ride to Suomenlinna, the city’s sea fortress. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is just a quick 15-minute ferry ride from the city, and through a self-guided tour, you can walk all around the six islands that make up the ancient fortress. There are several restaurants and cafes on Suomenlinna, perfect for grabbing a bite to eat and a coffee before heading back to the city.
Helsinki is a beautiful city to visit year-round, but if you’ll want to plan your 2023 trip to Helsinki towards the end of the summer so you can experience the Helsinki Biennial. The Helsinki Biennial takes place from June to September 2023, and this international art event brings together contemporary artists from all over the world for one of the most unique arts festivals in the world.
If you’re visiting in the winter, keep in mind that Helsinki is the coldest capital in the Nordic region, so you’ll want to bundle up! I visited Helsinki in December 2022 and thought the city looked very dapper with a fresh coat of snow.
Even though the days are shorter, you’ll still have access to just about everything you would during the summer months, so don’t let the colder temperatures scare you away from one of the most enchanting cities in Scandinavia. Stay warm and cozy with a cup of coffee and a sauna visit.
See Related: Best & Most Beautiful Cities in Europe to Visit
Christy Articola, Contributing Writer
Another northern pick from our team! If you haven’t been to Iceland before, it’s about time you finally made it in 2023. Surely, you’ve been thinking about it – almost every traveler has, because it’s one of the best places to visit.
Iceland is an easy journey. There is a lot to do there, but it’s not at all overwhelming. Iceland is as beautiful and welcoming and as intriguing as you’ve heard. It’s not as cold as you think, though the weather can be a bit unpredictable, and it’s very easy to navigate. There are accommodations for all types of travelers and the food is excellent — you’ll love it.
Reykjavik is where you’ll land, and it’s the stepping-off point to everything else. The city itself is charming, with plenty to do around the city center and outskirts, and people – both other travelers and locals – are friendly. Don’t miss top-notch museums like the National Museum of Iceland, the Saga Museum, and the Árbær Open Air Museum.
Take a food tour and learn about Icelander culture and cuisine. Relax and soak in the thermal waters of Sky Lagoon. Ride Icelandic horses across a lava field. Catch a performance at Harpa Concert Hall. Try to learn a few words in Icelandic (good luck!). Have an Icelandic hot dog – or three.
There are plenty of things to do in Reykjavik to keep you busy, but you’ll be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t also get out into nature during your visit to Iceland. Rent a car or book a tour and explore the Golden Circle – a tourist route that is full of waterfalls, geysers, unique rock formations, vast, open landscapes, and incomparable beauty.
Or, take a longer trip around the entire island via the Grand Circle Route for the stunning sights of the Golden Circle, plus black sand beaches and more. Along the way, look for puffins on cliffs and try to count all the sheep.
You can do some of these things, all of these things, or none of these things – Iceland is also the perfect place to just kick back, relax, and take it all in. It’s a great destination for anyone, anytime. You should definitely try to visit Iceland in 2023. Start planning now to take advantage of new budget flights heading that way – and go soon, before it’s inundated with even more travelers!
9. Florida Keys, Florida
Sandy Allen, Contributing Writer (@somewhereinthesand)
With the Lunar New Year upon us, it’s the perfect time to reflect and start planning new adventures for the upcoming year. According to the Chinese lunar calendar, 2023 is the Year of the Rabbit.
Just as the animal symbol rotates each year, so do the elements of wood, fire, earth, water, or metal. And 2023 just so happens to be a water rabbit. This leads me to my pick for the best places to go in 2023.
If you’re craving the aqua, emerald, and sapphire shades of Caribbean waterways, it’s time to head to the Florida Keys. Last year’s Year of the Tiger was a time of action, impulse, and bravery. Granted, all good things, however, the rabbit is a symbol of longevity, peace, and patient energy.
According to an important study at San Francisco State University, the Year of the Rabbit is meant to be a time of reflection, peace, and self-care. Maybe it’s time to step back and relax a bit. Where better to do so than the tropical ambiance of the Florida Keys?
From Key Largo to Key West and every islet, cove, and a crescent-shaped strand of sand in between, the Keys are the closest you can get to the Caribbean without a passport (and that you can drive to rather than take a flight, which, as you can imagine, is a tough task for travel to tropical destinations like Hawaii and U.S. territories like Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands). The region stretches for about 100 miles between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. The first thing you’ll want to do is find a boat and book a tour or activity somewhere, whether it’s deep-sea fishing, scuba diving, or snorkeling the reefs.
Whether you’re into swimming, sunning, snorkeling, diving, deep-sea fishing, hiking, or kayaking through the mangroves in search of manatees and spoonbills, you’ll find it in the Keys. Enjoy nature parks, reserves, and wildlife conservation sites focusing on rescuing, rehabbing, and releasing sick and injured marine animals. The Dolphin Research Center and the Turtle Hospital on Marathon are two of the best.
The reef off the East Coast of Florida stretches about 350 miles from the St. Lucie Inlet to the Dry Tortugas. It’s the third largest coral barrier reef system in the world (Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and the Belize Barrier Reef are the first and second), and it’s the only one in the U.S.
The waterways around the Keys are a National Marine Sanctuary and home to many varieties of coral as well as sea turtles, reef sharks, rays, tropical fish, and more. If you happen to see any of those water rabbits, we’d like a pic, please.
Other attractions and activities with a nature-inspired and peaceful approach include the Key West Nature Preserve, Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, the Key West Aquarium, Bahia Honda State Park, the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo, and sunset sails aboard vintage schooners.
See Related: Key West Day Trip: The Florida Keys in a Day
10. Tokyo, Japan
Kyle Kroeger, Editor-in-Chief (@kplusk)
Tokyo’s been sitting on global travelers’ buckets lists for multiple years now – particularly for Olympics travelers that were no longer able to attend the highly anticipated Olympic games due to the pandemic. Now, Japan has eased travel restrictions and is a destination that every global traveler needs to experience at least once in their lifetime.
Japan as a whole is filled with incredible culture, history, and fascinating landscapes. The country’s capital, Tokyo, is a city that is simply otherworldly.
Few people realize that Tokyo is the most populated city in the world, but it really never feels that way. It’s incredibly clean, and each area of the city has its own “theme” or angle to it.
The sprawling city of Ginza offers luxury shopping and incredible train station izakayas. Then, within 15 minutes you can be spending time in the trendy Harajuku neighborhood where you’ll find a younger, bustling crowd. Meanwhile, you can spend time in a ryokan or the gardens of the Imperial Palace of Chiyoda City and have no idea that you are in the most populated city in the world.
Each neighborhood is a city of its own in a way. You could spend 5 days in this city and only cover half of it. If you’re a first-time visitor, it’s the ultimate spot for those that love awe-inspiring cultural experiences.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Tokyo, Japan
Let’s keep in touch.
We love to travel – and we’d love to see where our readers are heading this year! Keep up with our travels by following ViaTravelers on Facebook and Instagram – and some of our writers and editors have included their Instagram handles if you want to see where in the world we may be. If you want to keep in touch, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter – ViaTravelers Destination Digest.
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Kim Magaraci is a writer and editor based in southern New Jersey. She’s an avid traveler, spending her free time exploring the wonders of the American West. When she’s not in the mountains, you’ll find her at the barn with her horse Lyla.